June Mood: Sunny Disposition

As a child, I used to look at summer as a break from my daily responsibilities. It was when I could be free to come and go as I pleased, eat ice cream handed out by people who probably shouldn’t have been allowed to operate ice cream trucks, and escape reality into movies and books. I have been, and always will be, a warm weather child looking for the safest place to nap under a tree. I’m still channeling that kid who ran around in a swimming suit most days, but now the freedom I’m chasing is a bit more intentional and focused on a goal. That might sound counter-intuitive, as freedom is supposed to be all about eschewing plans, but as I really start to marinate in my 30’s I have discovered the joys of acting with intention in all things.

For some of us, freedom is frightening. For me, it’s a recipe for disaster. Without a goal, a journey, a prize, I start to flounder, and inevitably become upset with myself. For a long time I was aimless, and as a result, truly joyless. I didn’t see a point to most things and my primary concern was instant gratification wherever I could get it. I’m only now realizing how trauma, and the fear it instilled in me at a young age, has hindered me from being able to do things with not only intention, but confidence.

Every day is an opportunity to grow, if we’re lucky. So, I’m looking at summer as a continuation of the work and growth, not a break from it all. And you know what? It’s been a joy.

Now, on to the only two things for this month’s moody post. First, a beautiful piece of art that is a reminder I need to see every day. This piece is by Tyler Feder of the Roaring Softly shop on Etsy.

Anxious Girls are Brave Print Hand-Illustrated by roaringsoftly

Last, but never least, is a great video by The School of Life on “How to Overcome Trauma”. I post their videos so much (I know), because I love the clarity of their advice. It’s been a helpful tool for me as I continue to move with intention through my days and goals. This particular video arrived literally right on time for me and I hope you feel the same after watching. You can read their blog post with the video’s transcript, and other related content, {here}. Enjoy!

 

How To Bounce Back From A Self-Care Extravaganza

I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to New York City for the weekend with my good friend, Jesse, for a girls’ trip.  We ate great food, marveled at the beauty of human creations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walked all over the Upper West Side until our feet felt like they’d been stomped by elephants. It was glorious. It was the kind of caring I could only ever dream of, but got to experience thanks to my phenomenal friend.

The Met, Egyptian Art
Amelia, Yours truly, Jesse
A happy tourist (Me)

The trip also got me thinking about what comes after something so great. What do we do with ourselves after the dust settles and we must return to our regular lives? You might not be flying for hours, spending money wildly, and luxuriating in a hotel like an heiress, but what if you take all the time you need to replenish your defenses only to come home feeling even more spent?

Taking care of ourselves can be just as exhausting as running our bodies ragged in the normal days of our lives. So, I would like some of my tips for bouncing back in your return to normality. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my access to travel, self-care, therapy, and wellness options, and I have found that even with the best of times I still need a little help finding my equilibrium. Below, I’m listing my tried and true habits for not only maintaining the good vibes of self-care, but also maintaining healthy expectations for who I’ll be afterwards.

Sleep!

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Disney

Sounds obvious, but is it something we let ourselves do after vacation? Or after a yoga session, or a hike, or a round of face masks and Judge Judy? Nah, didn’t think so! Think of it this way: you’ve just pumped your body full of that good stuff, like endorphins, adrenaline, and other sciencey things. Thus, your body is going to need to power down. I hate to sound like Morpheus in The Matrix, but at the end of the day we’re all walking and talking batteries. We need to recharge even if we’ve just been doing another form of powering up. Catch some zzz’s!

Ease back into your routine

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I know most of us use the weekend for our self-care extravaganzas – it’s just the way our work lives function. We feel guilty missing work, so we hold out until Friday evening to get down to business. That leaves us with going back in on Monday to face the monotony. This goes counter to everything we’re taught, but I would challenge you to not take on big projects right away, or act like the superhero you are first thing Monday morning. You’ll be feeling unstoppable, no doubt, but you’re going to be regret biting off more than you can chew. This isn’t about avoiding work all-together, but rather not falling prey to the urge to do it all. Take your time.

Don’t throw all the internal work out the window

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This is really the tough one for me. I was super zen in New York, but that’s easy to do when you’re far away from responsibilities, stressors, and a regular routine. I was able to unwind and be introspective without being bogged down with the minutiae of life. When I go back I was understandably tired and sore from walking, then flying for 6 hours, but I was instantly unhappy when I set foot through my front door. So, what gives?

Well, I think I was looking for reasons to be stressed out.  If I were to go deeper, I would discover I was hunting for reasons to rob myself of the goodness that felt unearned. Self-sabotage is real, especially after something bigger than what you normally allow yourself to have.  So remember this, first and foremost: You have earned the good things that you get. We deserve the cakes, face masks, rest, hikes, movies, hours of conversation with loved ones, vacations, therapy sessions and joys of this life, no matter what.

Whether you be traveling far, or taking a weekend for yourself at home, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest without worrying about what comes next. We’ve got memories to make, after all.

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Self-care 101: Journaling

I may be just a little biased about this, but I think writing is one of the coolest ways to take care of yourself. It only costs as much as a pen and paper, you can do it anywhere (within reason), and no one can do it like you doThere’s truly no downside.

In my opinion, If you don’t have access to therapeutic services keeping a journal is one of the best ways to get your emotions out in a healthy way. It goes beyond the bubble baths and face masks to help you get to the root of your emotions in order to grow, which is imperative on this journey.

The benefits of journaling

There are so many benefits that go along with keeping a journal. From improved confidence to beefing up your memory, the practice of wrestling with your thoughts is worth the time it takes to get it done. By putting your emotions down on paper – both good and bad – you’re freeing up your mind to start healing. Instead of keeping everything bottled up, only to explode at inopportune times, you’re carving out a space to be unfiltered and honest. We’re more likely to open up when we aren’t going to be judged, so what better place than a book no one gets to see unless you trust them to read it?

How to get started

Journals don’t have to be what they were in the past. Sure, they can be pretty, leather-bound books you save up for, or they can be your thoughts scribbled in a $2 notebook. You can do it digitally on your phone or computer if you please, as long as you carve out time to sit and let your mind flow. Your journal is your safe zone. It’s your place and your time to work out the knots messing up your day, or to gush about how fantastic your dinner was. It’s your reward to yourself for doing the damn thing.

I do think it’s important to acknowledge that writing isn’t easy for everyone, no matter how much you’ve been forced to do it in school. For many of us writing was a task,or sometimes a punishment for bad behavior, so it’s understandable if you can’t relax enough to let the emotions flow. Here’s a tip: if you approach your journal with the mindset that no one will see it – like no one, not even your cat – the process can become exponentially easier. Don’t worry about grammar, how your script looks, or if it even makes any sense at all ; this is purely for the release of your emotions. You can do it however you want to do it. It doesn’t matter if you want to use bullet points, write in short hand, or draw – it’s all the right way! As long as you are giving yourself freedom to be unfiltered you are going to flourish.

With that said, why not give journaling a go this year?

Easy (And Cheap!) Self-Care Ideas To Help You End Your Year

We’re inching closer to the end of the year! It’s an exciting – if not overwhelming – period of transformation and release. I look at it like a deep breath; with eyes closed and chest puffed, I pull in the good and try to release the bad. By making room in my body for what I need, instead of what harms, I’m hitting a reset button, if only for a few moments.

I think it’s fair to assume we’re all rushing about, trying to get our affairs in order, and have the last bit of fun, then dive into the next year with a clean slate. This year, I would like to try a different approach. Rather than beating myself up trying to get to an ever-changing point on the horizon, I want to end this cycle with ease. If you’re interested in doing the same then keep reading!

I am a true believer that self-care should be easy. It has been my experience that when we can take joy in the simple tasks, the big tasks won’t seem so daunting. For instance: you can’t expect to climb Mount Kilimanjaro when you aren’t able to be at peace with a walk around the block. That’s a little of an oversimplification of what it takes to become a mountaineer, but I think you get the point! So, this list will be comprised of activities you can do with few, if any materials, in the comfort of your own home. Because healing is our right, the path should be clear and wide.

Let’s hop to it!

Mani-Pedi

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This one is my favorite, and you don’t have to go to a salon  to get it done. Just settle in with your favorite polish, warm water, maybe some Epsom salt, and get it going.

Meditation

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The free-est of free things to do for yourself! If you struggle to relax enough to get this done, another option (that I use) is tapping. You can read about that {here}

Face mask (s)

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You can snag these at the Dollar General, Target, or Walgreens, then settle in for a night of relaxation. I prefer ones with lavender for the calming effect.

Try a new podcast

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I love podcasts. This might sound strange, but when I have them going during a task everything just flows easier. It’s like being surrounded by friends and feeling safe enough to relax. Some good ones: Natch Beaut, The High Low, and NPR

Create something, even if it isn’t perfect

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We’re all Picasso in this space! Get some kiddie paint, some loose paper, and start slapping away at it. Or, if you like to sew, try our a new pattern. Wherever your heart takes you, give it a whirl. Don’t be worried about perfection, because that’s boring.

Call a friend 

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Nothing helps to bolster the spirit like a conversation with a trusted confidante. You never know, they might just be in need of your call, too.

Read that book you’ve been avoiding

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If it’s been sitting on your nightstand, desk, kitchen table, or any surface where you have to look at it daily, then it is time to give it a go.

Start a journal

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You don’t have to run out and buy a pretty leather book to fill up, unless that’s something you want to do! I still keep a paper journal, but that’s not the only way to go. Thanks to technology, you can start a journal on your laptop, desktop or phone. 

Take an” intentional” nap

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I say “intentional” to mean not waiting until your body and mind are so exhausted that you can’t stand anymore. Settle into your bed or couch, draw the blinds, and give yourself permission to rest. You’ll wake up like a new human.

Walk around the neighborhood

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Kilimanjaro training has to start somewhere, right? Take in the air, the power in your legs, and conquer the world.

Let’s Avoid A Holiday Implosion, Shall We?

It’s that time of year again: Snow! (depending on your location) Time off! (depending on your vocation) Love and Cheer! (depending on… you get the point).

I’ve been singing the praises of this month loud enough for you to get the hint – I really and truly love December. When I was growing up, my parents infused our winter with magic and information. I didn’t just learn the Christian stuff, but also got to hear about the traditions of other religions. Their stories, mixed in with my own imagination, transformed how I see the changing of the season. It became more than a time for presents – which I love – instead morphing into a time when anything at all is possible if your spirit is willing.

On the flip side, this is also a time when joy fails. With the influx of family cards, lovey-dovey Hallmark movies (that always seem to be set in the same advent calendar- type towns) , and people portraying perfect lives, comes the onset of despair. Not to mention, the grey and unforgiving frosting of the Northern hemisphere can nix any hope for the healing quality of daylight.

Seasonal depression, dear reader, is real and alive.

I come from a place of extreme privilege. I was raised by two loving, while admittedly flawed, parents, who worked themselves to the bone for my brother and I. Our home was warm, our bellies were full, and we woke every Christmas to find toys, no matter how bad *I* had been that year. That is incredibly rare. A home life like that would set anyone with more than five brain cells onto a path of success. Even as a survivor of sexual abuse, I knew happier days than a lot of people. To say that is not to negate the gravity of my pain, but an acknowledgement of my reality.

Still, even with all the stuff and things that make childhood a fond memory instead of a nightmare, I have experienced less than stellar holidays. Those unfortunate times took place mainly in adulthood, and I shudder to think of them. But, that’s what fosters growth, right? After looking back on the times when my Yule celebrations were rough, I’ve come up with some tips to help you navigate the stress without a spontaneous combustion.

Let’s hop to it!

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Be with those you love, if possible. If impossible, why is being alone so bad?

Most of the points on this list operate under the assumption you will be going home to be with your family, however I want to acknowledge that oftentimes that isn’t a possibility. Whether it be estrangement, death, or how expensive it is to fly or drive, you might not be with your family over the break, and that is ok. I know that isolation is one of the greatest tools of depression, because in the solitude of your room you can weave all kinds of tales of your inadequacies. Yet, I’m starting to wonder whether being alone in itself is the problem. There are lots of things we can do for ourselves in the quiet of an empty home. What if you were to treat yourself to beautiful things like compliments, a good meal, some you time? Besides, how often do we really get to be paid to stay home and take care of ourselves? This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you can, I say run wild with the possibilities.

 

snow drifts and chimbley nymphs GIF by Yule Log 2.015

 

Not every battle is worth fighting.

Yes, I know the drill. We’re supposed to go home for the holidays, set aside our differences, and sing songs at the end of the night with everyone coming to an understanding of the meaning family.  *eye roll*

That’s a movie. In fact, it’s a movie I wrote in one of my journals when I was 13. We’re not all going to get along just because our religious text told us to. Politics (that dirty word) is the fastest, most sure-fire way to watch things go left at Nana’s house. If you want to enjoy your time you are going to have to learn when to fight, and when to bow out. In addition to that, you’re going to have to look out for when your relatives are just looking for a sparring match, rather than an honest and respectful discussion. No, you shouldn’t let your auntie say wild things about the world, or sit idly by when your great-uncle on your father’s side tells a rape joke, but the little digs from people who don’t care about you might not be worth your time every single time. Ya dig?

Speak up when you can, and in the meantime just radicalize your cousins and siblings.

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Take care of your body.

This one is simple: eat smart, drink water, don’t blow your stomach to smithereens on pie. You deserve to indulge, but know your limits. As a recovering bulimic, I have to give myself permission not only to eat what I want, but to step away before I spiral. So, mind your body and how it affects your brain chemistry. Take care at the parties, at your family home, or in your own home!

 

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Remember your successes

When I go to holiday functions, I always start to sweat when I think of the dreaded “So, what do you do?” question. Which is usually followed by the devastating “Is that really a job?” As a writer, I get this ALL. THE. TIME. These questions are accompanied by a smirk, silence, and me slinking away to think of good comebacks in the bathroom.  I’m often reminded of this Tumblr post:

It’s true on a lot of levels, even among family.  Some people don’t know how to respect others based on – oh, I don’t know – being able to happily survive this cruel, heartless wasteland we call Earth . Your mere existence might not be enough for them, but it’s sure as hell good enough for me and the people who aren’t d-bags. Try to remember that while they’re looking down on you, you’re making a life for yourself the way YOU choose to. That’s powerful. Not many people are brave enough to be who they want to be, rather than what will get them shallow accolades. The world needs you just as much as anyone else, regardless of your job. Take stock of your triumphs – whether they be emotional or monetary – and keep it moving.

In closing: BREATHE

Whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or just another day off, you can survive this. When I’m on the verge of a panic attack (which I’ll be writing about soon) my husband gets me to settle into my breathing and by the end I’m much better. You’d be amazed what our bodies can do when we let it run on autopilot. I’d like to encourage you to give it a test drive this season by just breathing in, then, funnily enough, out again. The rest will flow from there. So, be well this holiday season. Be strong when you can and forgiving when you can’t, and never doubt your right to the warmth of the sun.

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